x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Low paid applicants denied driving licences

When Sharjah licensing centres started applying regulations prohibiting workers with low income and low skills from obtaining a driving licence they were using a federal law that is little known.

ABU DHABI // When Sharjah licensing centres last week started applying regulations prohibiting workers with low income and low skills from obtaining a driving licence they were using a federal law that is little known. A senior official in the Ministry of Interior, who declined to be named, said: "There exists a law that is more than 10 years old. It prohibits workers with low income and low skills from opening a file to obtain licences."

If a worker is unable to open a file, they cannot sit a driving test. Ministry officials were not able to provide information about the intention of the law, however a source within Abu Dhabi Police said it was being used by some authorities to reduce traffic congestion. The ministry official said the regulations had been applied in Abu Dhabi for many years but other emirates could apply the regulations as needed.

It can be applied to any unskilled profession that does not require qualification to degree level. However, some residents in the capital said licensing staff did not apply the rules consistently - and they had been able to obtain a licence even though they did not have any qualifications. Staff with the Road and Transport Authority in Dubai said they were not aware of exclusions for some professions. Driving schools in the city also said people were not excluded based on their occupations.

It is understood that where the rules are applied they apply to anyone seeking a new licence, not to expatriates with an existing licence from another country recognised by authorities in the UAE. Many expatriates from countries such as Britain, the US and Australia, are able to obtain a UAE licence without sitting a driving test as long as they hold a valid licence from their own country. Faisal Ali, a carpenter based in Sharjah, said he believed the law was unfair. "I had to change my profession [on the paperwork] in order to be able to open a file."

Public transport was inconvenient most of the time and he wanted to be able to drive his staff to his workshop, he said. Authorities in Sharjah said he was not allowed to apply because his profession fell under a category disqualified by the law. To apply for a licence applicants must "open a file" with police, the Interior Ministry official said. In order to do that, applicants need proof of their profession in the form of a letter from their employer and a copy of their visa.

The official said there were also measures in place to prevent residents in one emirate applying for a licence in another to circumvent the law.